Perhaps because of the release of The Dark Knight Rises, I started listening to Michael Caine’s second autobiography, The Elephant to Hollywood this past weekend. I’ve come to enjoy audiobooks as a good method for keeping the road rage in check and this particular book, read by the author, is something special.
I’ve been fascinated with Michael Caine for a good long time. It began with those repeat broadcasts of Jaws: The Revenge KTLA used to do all the time in the late 80s and early 90s. Even in one of his most shameless cash-grab phases, I was charmed with the odd foreign guy who was hitting on the Widow Brody. I suppose it’s the actor’s natural talent making its way through the booze and cut-rate material. In The Elephant, I’ve already learned that Caine either shoots a movie or vacations during the British winter months because he had a form of malaria as a young man that left him shivering violently. Of course, that could just be his dry humor.
I think, unlike most of the actors I gravitate toward, Caine holds the line between legitimately great movies (Dark Knight, Get Carter), Oscar fare, (Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules) and schlock (The Swarm, Jaws: The Revenge). While I was living in Manchester, I had the occasion to watch Educating Rita on television. The movie was not commercially available in the US at the time, so it was something of a treat. It’s a great movie and principally carried by Caine and Julie Walters (many of you will remember her as Ron Weasley’s mum). And really, there’s no joke here. It’s a movie that is quite good and worth watching.
And how often do I make a statement like that on The Satellite Show?
Caine walks out on ledges and one of them is this utterly fantastic clip from a video he made about acting. It became something a fascination for Conan O’Brien and Howard Stern back in the 1990s.
I can never decide if its utterly goofy or utterly badass. To hear him explain the reasoning behind not blinking in The Elephant, it makes perfect sense why an actor shouldn’t blink in a close-up, but the way it’s presented in this video just induces laughs. Particularly after a full thirty seconds of “And I don’t blink, and I keep on going.”
Also, since we mostly remember him as an old man at this point, it should be pointed out that back in the 60s, he could take a photo like an absolute badass:
If you haven’t seen his Get Carter yet, stop wasting time and watch it now. It’s first-phase Caine amidst a depressing backdrop of post-war Newcastle. He shoots, drugs, chases, and kills his way through the city to find his niece. Somehow, he’s the good guy.
There area few other flicks I could recommend, like Pulp, his second collaboration with Get Carter director Mike Hodges. It’s more of a comedy and quite possibly the secret origin of Jarvis Cocker. Back on the schlocky side, I have a fondness for The Swarm, a film in which Caine plays a scientist fighting a cloud filled with Killer Bees not of the Wu-Tang variety.
Now, admittedly, I’m still early in Caine’s retelling of his life. He’s just made his first feature and Alfie is still in the future. I’m looking forward to learning more. I’m also hoping he mentions his time in the Bahamas on the set of Jaws the Revenge.